Looking Back on 2022: Top 12 DEI Management Observations

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It has been three years since the start of the pandemic and companies are still struggling to achieve their DEI organizational goals and commitments. Fortunately, while looking back on the hundreds of conversations we have with DEI leaders, we have observed important trends that, if actualized, can create substantial impact in any company. Here are ideascape’s top 12 DEI observations of 2022:

  1. Executives can’t please everyone when it comes to framing and prioritizing their companies’ DEI efforts. Leaders should take a thoughtful, deliberate approach to choosing a DEI focus that makes sense for the business–“What, for whom and why”–and be prepared to explain and stand by their choices.
  1. Internal conversations about companies’ DEI focus present a unique opportunity to examine cultural DNA more broadly. Candid discussions about stakeholder expectations and organizational attributes – real and aspirational – help reinforce useful values, norms, and standards, or expose the need for new ones.
  1. There is (still) no DEI silver bullet for large companies. Even when executives put forward a well-conceived, carefully-scoped DEI vision for their companies, achieving it will require sustained investment across a portfolio of reinforcing initiatives.
  1. Outsourcing continues to be an uneven, patchwork proposition for DEI management. While the DEI service provider ecosystem has evolved and expanded, it remains fragmented, sub-scale, and underdeveloped outside of workforce analytics and training content – particularly when it comes to designing interventions that require specialized process and system expertise.
  1. Decentralized grassroots DEI activities are a blessing and a curse for companies trying to craft a cohesive strategy and scale overall impact. Bottom-up DEI efforts can provide a constructive outlet for workforce activism, but typically favor lighter-weight, feel-good initiatives and offer very little visibility into performance or opportunity for leverage.
  1. Close alignment and strong management practices are CDOs’ best defense against organizational distraction and DEI fatigue. While shifting economic conditions and labor market dynamics certainly influence companies’ priorities, DEI executives are more likely to maintain momentum if they regularly reinforce relevance and inspire confidence among key stakeholders. 
  1. Education, transparency, and accountability aren’t enough to drive DEI outcomes absent a clear definition of success and a sharp focus on solutions. Approaches that rely primarily on raising broad awareness of DEI issues and distributing responsibility for high-level outcomes ignore the reality of day-to-day incentives and expose the need for robust support in designing and implementing targeted solutions.
  1. Meaningful DEI has a much larger footprint than a typical DEI budget or org chart would suggest. While many companies have invested significantly in DEI management infrastructure and traditional standalone programming, by far the largest costs relate to DEI-enhancing key processes and systems distributed throughout the organization.
  1. Investments in Final-Mile DEI Integration are about more than just near-term change management. Like other types of changes intended to enhance resilience or improve risk management, DEI interventions by design typically add ongoing organizational drag, introduce new performance constraints/trade-offs, and place new limits on managers’ discretion.
  1. Managed innovation and controlled experiments are as critical to DEI progress as they are to any other corporate endeavor. As companies rebalance their DEI portfolios away from initiatives built for speed and visibility toward initiatives built for impact and sustainability, a disciplined approach to trial and error that emphasizes performance measurement and useful feedback (a learning loop) is critical to understanding what really works.
  1. Collaborative solution-seeking is the key trait all value-added DEI partnerships have in common. DEI organizations’ most leveraged roles are in providing direction and energy, acting as a clearinghouse for good management practices and targeted interventions (sourced internally and externally) and owning DEI-related communications
  2. DEI may be everyone’s responsibility, but it isn’t everyone’s job. Managers may choose to create opportunities for employees to amplify their social contributions individually or in groups, but not at the expense of day-to-day performance in their roles or productive working relationships.

We think for the present and the future. At ideascape we partner with DEI leaders to support their efforts on organizational alignment on key DEI priorities for execution. Schedule a 30-minute meeting with our founder, Jonathan Dyke, today.

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